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Professor Carolyn Summerbell

Telephone: 0191 33 41483
Room number: 107, 42 Old Elvet
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 40071
Room number: A106, Holliday Building, Queen's Campus, Stockton on Tees, TS17 6BH
Principal of John Snow College
Professor of Human Nutrition in the Obesity Related Behaviours (ORB) Research Group

Contact Professor Carolyn Summerbell (email at


Professor Summerbell works (50%) within the Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity (SEPA) group within the School of Applied Social Sciences (SASS). She is also the Principal of John Snow College (50%).

She joined Durham University in September 2008 from Teesside University where she was Head of Research for the School of Health and Social Care, and previously at UCL and also QMUL as a lecturer.

Professor Summerbell’s current research focuses on 1) the collation of evidence for the prevention of obesity in children and adults, and dissemination and translation of this evidence into policy and practice, 2) the development of community-based interventions to prevent childhood and adult obesity, 3) the development of tools to assess dietary intake and physical activity levels at population level. The need to assess and reduce health inequalities underpins this programme of work.

Professor Summerbell has a strong record of attracting research grants from a variety of funding sources. For example, she is a co-applicant on the UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence (Fuse) and the School for Public Health Research 2 (Fuse) that includes all five Universities in the North East of England; Professor Summerbell is the Deputy Director of Fuse. Professor Summerbell is currently a co-applicant on a number of research projects, including those funded by NIHR, SPHR2, BIG Lottery and MRC. Professor Summerbell was a member of the Research Funding Board of the NIHR Public Health Research Programme from it’s inception to 2013.

Prof Summerbell has co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed research papers and many Cochrane reviews, and is regularly invited to give keynote lectures at international conferences. She is on the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Obesity.

Research Groups

School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health

Research Projects

Department of Geography

Research Interests

  • The collation of evidence for the prevention of obesity in children and adults
  • Dissemination and translation of evidence for the prevention of obesity in children and adults into policy and practice
  • The development of community-based interventions to prevent childhood and adult obesity
  • The development of tools to assess dietary intake and physical activity levels at population level

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2015: Invited speaker:
    12th European Nutrition Conference FENS, Berlin, Germany - talk entitled “Weighing up the evidence: the characteristics and approaches of effective public health interventions to tackle inequalities in obesity”
  • 2014: Organiser: of symposium on ‘Early Life experiences and obesity at the UK Association for the Study of Obesity Annual 2-day conference in Birmingham
  • 2013: Invited speaker and chair: Association for the Study of Obesity national meeting ‘Healthy Communities: Tackling Obesity in Local Areas’. London
  • 2012: Invited speaker: Childhood obesity: prevention in school years. A one day conference – Obesity in Mothers and Children: What are the links and what can we do about them? LSHTM, London
  • 2011: Invited speaker:
    International Conference on Childhood Obesity - CIOI 2011 ( Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2010: Invited speaker: The 30th Great North Run Think Tank International Conference, Newcastle
  • 2009: Invited speaker: Danish Nutrition Society 'Interventions in childhood - to prevent/treat childhood obesity', Copenhagen
  • 2009: Invited speaker: 17th European Congress on Obesity. Geneva
  • 2009: Invited speaker: International Society for Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity Annual Meeting, Lisbon
  • 2009: Invited speaker: Wellcome Trust Frontiers meeting 'Environmental and Behavioural Determinants of Childhood Obesity'. Cambridge
  • 2009: invited speaker: Tackling Obesity Conference, London
  • 2009: Invited speaker: Department of Health - Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives Annual Horizon Scanning Workshop on the Evidence for Tackling Obesity, London
  • Editorial Board Member:
    Board of the International Journal of Obesity, Board of the British Journal of Nutrition 2006-2008, Board of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics and Reviews Editor 2001-2006.
  • Member: Research Funding Board of the NIHR PUblic Health Research Programme (2008 - May 2014)
  • Member: EPODE European Network (EEN) Scientific Evaluation and Dissemination Committee (2008 ongoing)
  • Trustee of First Steps Nutrition (national charity): ongoing

Selected Publications

Book review

Chapter in book

  • Summerbell, CD. & Hillier, F. (2010). Community Interventions and Initiatives to Prevent Obesity. In Obesity Epidemiology: From Aetiology to Public Health. Crawford, D., Jeffery, R., Ball, K. & Brug, H. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 395-408.
  • Summerbell, C.D. & Shield, J. (2009). Obesity in Childhood. In Obesity: science to practice. Williams, G. & Frühbeck, G. Chichester: John Wiley. 509-539.
  • Thorogood, M., Hillson, M. & Summerbell, C.D. (2006). Changing behaviour. In Clinical Evidence. BMJ Publishing Group.
  • Edmunds, L., Summerbell, C., Waters, E., Campbell, K., Kelly, S. & Ashton, V. (2004). A Summary of findings from the two Cochrane Systematic Reviews for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. In Childhood Obesity from Basic Science to Public Health. Caroli, M.A., Chandra, R.K. & Frelut, M.L. Naples: Giuseppe de Nicola Editore. 197-202.
  • Garrow, J. & Summerbell, C. (2004). Obesity. In Health Care Needs Assessment: the epidemiologically based needs assessment reviews. Stevens, A., Raftery, J., Mant, J. & Simpson, S. Oxford and San Francisco: Radcliffe Medical Press. 1 and 2.
  • Thorogood, M., Cowburn, G. & Summerbell, C. (2002). Nutrition and health promotion. In Nutrition through the life cycle. Shetty, P. Leatherhead, Surrey: Leatherhead Food International Royal Society of Chemistry.

Journal Article


Show all publications

Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • Nutrition: Nutrition
  • Obesity: The prevention of obesity


Selected Grants

  • 2015: NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme: process evaluation of the demonstrator phase and consensus building for a common evaluation framework and data-set for programme implementation - Department of Health (England), from 1st Sept for 18 months
  • 2014: Community pharmacy interventions around alcohol misuse, smoking cessation and weight management (£122262.63 from NIHR)
  • 2014: Community pharmacy interventions for public health priorities: a systematic review of community - NIHR PHR, March 14-Feb 15
  • 2014: Update of the Cochrane review ‘Prevention of Childhood Obesity’ - World Health Organisation, Dec 14-Dec 15
  • 2013: A Better Start evaluation and learning contract - BIG Lottery, 2013-2024
  • 2013: Evaluation of a Community Pharmacy-led weight management intervention - Stockton Borough Council, Nov 13-Aug 14
  • 2013: The Centre for Translational Research in Public Health (Fuse) - UK Clinical Research Collaboration (funded by BHF, CRUK, ESRC, MRC and DH), 2013-2018
  • 2013: Transforming the ‘foodscape’: development and feasibility testing of interventions to promote healthier take-away, pub or restaurant food - SPHR, Oct 13-Sept 16
  • 2012: Determinants of diet and physical activity in infants and young children - SPHR, Aug 12-July 15
  • 2012: NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) - NIHR, 2012-2017
  • 2012: Physical Activity and Wellbeing in Schools - ESRC, July 12-June14
  • 2012: Pre-schoolers in the Playground (PiP) - a pilot cluster randomised controlled trial of a physical activity intervention for children aged 18 months - 4 years old - NIHR-PHR, Sept 12-June 14
  • 2011: Community-based participatory research: ethics and outcomes - AHRC, March 11-Oct 11
  • 2011: Tackling inequalities in obesity: How effective are public health interventions at reducing socio-economic inequalities in obesity amongst children and adults? - NIHR-PHR, March 11-April 13
  • 2010: Evaluation of child weight management services - Stockton Primary Care Trust, Aug 10-July 11
  • 2010: Toy Box (Understanding how behavioural models explain fun, food, play and policy for the prevention of obesity in early childhood) - Framework Programme 7, European Commission (FP7), Feb 10-Sept 14
  • 2009: ENERGY - Programme 7, European Commission (FP7), Jan 09-Aug 12
  • 2009: Middlesbrough Healthy Town Project - Community Challenge Fund, Department of Health (DH), March 09-March 11
  • 2008: Development and evaluation of interventions for the prevention of childhood obesity in a multi-ethnic population - NIHR, 2008-2013
  • 2008: TeesCAKE (Tees Consumption and Activity in Kids Experience) - World Cancer Research Fund, Nov 08-Nov 11
  • 2011: Tackling inequalities in obesity (£178062.00 from NIHR)